JURORS in the new Hillsborough disaster inquests have to “beware of the wisdom of hindsight” as they hear about the details of the day that saw 96 people lose their lives.
In his opening of the inquests, coroner Lord Justice Goldring told the jury of seven women and four men that although they should ask if anything could or should have been done to guard against a dangerous situation developing in the pens of Hillsborough stadium during the game on April 15, 1989, they must also avoid applying today’s standards to the event.
He said: “As you hear my summary, you will need to bear in mind that the events developed quickly.
“Also, that at first many of those involved did not understand that they were facing a major disaster.
“On the other hand, you also need to take account of the fact that many were trained and seasoned members of the emergency services and police who should therefore have had some understanding of how to respond to a major incident.
“And, as I have warned you in a different context, you need to beware the wisdom of hindsight.”
The court heard that after the 1988 semi-final, also between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, fans had reported pressure and crushing within the pens.
But the coroner said there had been no reports of serious injuries and officials within the club, FA and police considered the match a success, going on to use it as a model for the 1989 game - in which 12 Wirral people died.
Police had drawn up detailed plans to ensure fans of the two teams were kept apart in response to concerns about hooliganism.
The coroner said: “It may be said by others that police planning was too focused on problems of disorder and insufficiently focused on issues of crowd safety.”
The jury is also expected to hear evidence that the stadium’s crush barriers did not meet with stadium safety standards and may be asked to consider whether appointing Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield as match commander of the game was a sensible decision.
“He certainly did not have the wealth of experience of his immediate predecessor Chief Superintendent Mole,” said Lord Justice Goldring
Chief Supt Duckenfield was promoted just weeks before the FA Cup semi final and it was decided he should take over from his predecessor immediately.
He had never commanded a match at the Hillsborough stadium before.
Lord Justice Goldring added: "Whether that was a sensible decision may be something for you to have to consider."